Anne Wynter is a governess, eking out a living for herself after a somewhat disastrous separation from her family at a tender age. Daniel Smythe-Smith is a gentleman, recently returned from exile after one of his own badly planned younger mishaps sent him to the continent for 3 years. When Daniel spots Anne playing with his cousins at the annual Smythe-Smith musicale, he can’t take his eyes off her; who is this mysterious woman who draws him in so easily? As he seeks her out, Anne tries to hide the minefields of her own past, even as she finds herself falling hopelessly in love with a man clearly above her station.
Julia Quinn’s books are regularly delightful and fun reads, but I’ve felt recently that she’s been losing a bit of her touch – focusing more on the sweet, less on the actual emotional perils that make romance novels such compelling reads. To my surprise, A Night Like This still retained her sweet hallmarks, but added on a layer that felt like a refreshing blast from the past as far as her writing goes.
I think the main thrust behind this was the past of both of the characters. Daniel’s past is immediately apparent; he accidentally shot his friend Hugh, the son of the Marquess of Ramsgate, in a duel, and was driven from the country for three years while the fledgling lord’s father sought revenge. He only has returned to England because Hugh came to visit him and assure him in person that his father would no longer kill Daniel if he stepped foot on his native soil. Anne’s past, on the other hand, is revealed much more slowly, and is far more heart-breaking, adding a touch of emotional tension to an otherwise sweet and romantic read. It wasn’t the actual subplot that I liked, as romance novel mystery subplots tend to be silly or useless obstacles; it was the addition of depth to each of the characters.
I liked the scenes where we witnessed Anne as governess to the younger Smythe-Smith girls and their individual personalities, too; they add a further touch of humour to the book and help a reader understand just why Daniel and Anne fall in love with one another. Again, Quinn’s novels are very sweet and sparkly on the interactions, but tend to be lacking in the emotional intensity department, and while this is an improvement on the last one, I still don’t think she’s quite returned to the early Bridgerton days.
As a pleasurable way to pass an afternoon (or a transatlantic flight, which is where I read this), A Night Like This is a great choice, and definitely a sign that Julia Quinn is making strides towards regaining her golden touch. Not quite there yet, but a lot of fun, and recommended for romance readers.
And as a final note, this is a truly delightful cover, a refreshing change from the usual half-undressed couple!
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